Net Art Versioning

Posted by Rob Myers | Mon Jun 23rd 2008 5:12 p.m.

The technological base of (the content of) the network determines the cultural superstructure of (the content of) net art.

This is why net.art 1.0 was (allegedly) about producing 404 pages and net.art 2.0 is (allegedly) about consuming the media and relationships that are out there: it's what the network afforded at the time.

Social relations and non-network media are network content in Web 2.0. There is no difference between hacking up a 404 in 1994 and ironically posting links to existing media with your friends on a group blog in 2006. Both exist in the same relation to the network and to society.
  • twhid | Mon Jun 23rd 2008 5:31 p.m.
    +++

    "The technological base of (the content of) the network determines the cultural superstructure of (the content of) net art."

    In a comment on a previous post I started to refer to the content layer and technological layer of the internet. I got it from Zittrain's latest book, The Future of the Internet. He uses the model to talk about the ingenious design of the 'net as an hourglass (with hardware at the bottom, IP (Internet Protocol) as a small, completely agnostic middle layer, a tech layer above that, a content layer above that and even mentions a social layer above the content layer.

    Here's the diagram:
    image
    http://yupnet.org/zittrain/archives/13

    The book is mostly about the law and the generative nature of the net (meaning it's open, not proprietary) so I'm not sure it has much application when discussing art on the net. But conceptualizing the net as these different layers I find handy. Which brings me to my question to Rob...

    Do you think the same could be said for older art-making technologies (paint, marble, video)? Or is the net somehow different. Does it's technical complexity somehow make it special? For film, it seems to me that the answer is YES. For painting, I'm not so sure...
    • Rob Myers | Tue Jun 24th 2008 3:05 p.m.
      T.Whid -

      I do think it's useful to view an artwork as consisting of different technical and semantic layers, and that this is true even for painting and sculpture.

      The layers could be: The economic and social production and meaning of raw materials. Their preparation and distribution as artistic materials. The technical manipulation of those materials. The application of style. The iconography of the work. Its critical reception.

      This reflects the increasing meaningfulness and distance from physicality of the IP stack. So impressionism and net art are both protocols on different transports. In the IP stack, IP is the choke point, it is what makes the Internet the Internet. What would the choke point for art be?
      • T.Whid | Tue Jun 24th 2008 4:33 p.m.
        +++

        "I do think it's useful to view an artwork as consisting of different technical and semantic layers, and that this is true even for painting and sculpture."

        It's probably obvious that I agree. But, I was about to write "only to a point," which isn't right. If these layers seem invisible to one, it's in the same way that water is invisible to a fish. It's easy to ignore those layers when you're within your own culture. It becomes much harder with work from other times or cultures. One needs to understand all the layers to understand the work. I'm speaking from the viewer's POV here. That doesn't mean the artist needs to address the structure or layers (or even understand them) directly however.

        "This reflects the increasing meaningfulness and distance from physicality of the IP stack. So impressionism and net art are both protocols on different transports. In the IP stack, IP is the choke point, it is what makes the Internet the Internet. What would the choke point for art be?"

        I don't think IP is a choke point. It's a 'simple point;' there is one simple socket between the complexity of the hardware layers and the software/content layers. Zittrain would say this simplicity gives the greatest 'generativity' to net.

        What would be the analogy in the art world??? I don't think there is one :-) The art world isn't generative.

        +++
        • Rob Myers | Wed Jun 25th 2008 4:33 p.m.
          T.Whid: The art world isn't generative.

          If the net is generative and net.art is on the net, but the art world isn't generative and net.art is a product of the artworld, there would appear to be a contradiction. ;-)

          (I may be mis-using the word "generative" here relative to how Zittrain intends it, I'm using it to mean weak technological determinism.)

          Tom certainly describes both earlier and current net art as epiphenomena of the content and structure of the web.
          • T.Whid | Wed Jun 25th 2008 5:06 p.m.
            +++

            "If the net is generative and net.art is on the net, but the art world isn't generative and net.art is a product of the artworld, there would appear to be a contradiction. ;-) "

            Well, that's sort-of my point... is net art a product of the art world? On a whole, I would say have to say no. Does the art world trade in net art? Not yet, not really.

            Beyond the question of net art, perhaps the art world is somewhat generative, but it does have its choke points and gatekeepers, making it less generative (in Zittrain's sense).
  • Ethan Ham | Mon Jun 23rd 2008 5:39 p.m.
    Ironically posting links to existing media with your friends on a group blog might or might not be art. I think it really depends on whether there's an artistic intentionality there, or if it's just a goof. I suppose anything can be seen as "outsider art," but if the creator (or re-poster) isn't intending to create art, then the artist really becomes whoever is proclaiming it as found art.
  • T.Whid | Mon Jun 23rd 2008 5:53 p.m.
    +++

    One more thing, let's not conflate Web 2.0 with the so-called net art 2.0. The original net artists were much smarter about the net than the commercial concerns, ie, the Web 1.0 companies were stupid about the web, the original net artists weren't (see eToy vs eToys for an example).

    We were into creating social systems/processes/experiences long before the trendy two-point-oh starting getting tacked on to everything. We never forgot that there's actual human people at the endpoints.

    +++
    • Frederic Madre | Mon Jun 23rd 2008 6:11 p.m.
      I think the etoy toywar thing must now be reassessed along with what they eventually ended up doing
      they suck now, didn't they suck then ?
      when I think about it, I believe etoy only ever did one great thing and that was the toywar interface (as web object as well as PR object) that was their peak
      • twhid | Mon Jun 23rd 2008 6:22 p.m.
        +++

        Didn't they sort of fall apart? The group disbanded, no? They haven't done anything lately have they? In other words, I don't know if they suck now. But they certainly inspired lots of people then. There's always a warm spot in my heart for the etoy of old.

        • Mark Tribe | Tue Jun 24th 2008 5:45 a.m.
          Raqs Media Collective is curating part of Manifesta and is going to include etoy along with a few other artists who were part of the net art scene, e.g. Matthew Fuller and Graham Harwood (twice!). What does Raqs know that we don't know?

          “THE REST OF NOW”, Curated by Raqs Media Collective. Artists: David Adjaye, Stefano Bernardi, Kristina Braein, Yane Calovski, Candida TV, contemporary culture index, Neil Cummings and Marysia Lewandowska, Harold de Bree, Latifa Echakhch, Marcos Chaves, etoy.CORPORATION, Anna Faroqhi, Ivana Franke, Matthew Fuller, Francesco Gennari, Ranu Ghosh, Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty, Anawana Haloba in collaboration with Francesca Grilli, Graham Harwood, Nikolaus Hirsch & Michel Müller, Hiwa K, Emre Hüner, Helen Jilavu, Sanjay Kak, Zilvinas Kempinas, Reinhard Kropf and Siv Helene Stangeland, Anders Krueger, Lawrence Liang, Charles Lim Yi Yong, m-city, Teresa Margolles, Walter Niedermayr, Jorge Otero-Pailos, Martin Pichlmair, Piratbyrån, Jaime Pitarch, Prof. Bad Trip, Kateřina Šedá, Dayanita Singh, TEUFELSgroup, Meg Stuart, Melati Suryodarmo, Jörgen Svensson, Hansa Thapliyal, Alexander Vaindorf, Judi Werthein, Graham Harwood, Richard Wright, Matsuko Yokokoji, Darius Ziura.
          • Frederic Madre | Tue Jun 24th 2008 7:59 a.m.
            What does Raqs know that we don't know? "

            dunno and am not too interested in finding out (judging from that announcement)
          • T.Whid | Tue Jun 24th 2008 12:39 p.m.
            +++

            "What does Raqs know that we don't know?"

            A lot apparently. I thought etoy was history :-)

            Just for some old-time-y fun, MTAA's interview with etoy circa TOYWAR days:
            http://www.mtaa.net/mtaaRR/texts/etoy_interview.html

            +++
          • D Z | Tue Jun 24th 2008 3:07 p.m.
            they've been carrying around the ghost of tim leary in a digital shipping container
        • Frederic Madre | Tue Jun 24th 2008 7:58 a.m.
          they did not fall apart (although hans berhnard left and continued doing interesting stuff) as I am a shareholder I receive their spam once every 3 months or so.
  • Andrei Thomaz | Mon Jun 23rd 2008 6:31 p.m.
    using the same kind of language to different ends doesn't seem a good choice. I mean, using "net art 2.0" with a different intention than the use of "web 2.0" is contradictory. You want to say something, but the words you use mean another thing, very different...

    Insisting on the use of "net art 2.0" would obligate you to ALWAYS make the (good) clarification made by Whid. If not enough, it also brings a kind of "futuristic logic", like the ones which drive the market, the industry and their discourses.

    best,
    andrei
    • eryk | Wed Jun 25th 2008 2:16 a.m.
      using "net art 2.0" with a different intention than the use of "web 2.0" is contradictory

      And significantly less interesting. The changes in the design and coding structures of "Web 2.0" change the way people use the Web, it changes what is possible on the Web. There is a higher degree of customization and truer degrees of "interactivity." Web 2.0, as a coding concept, completely disregards notions of ownership and hierarchies in lieu of complete personalization and customization of content.

      For artists, ignoring those changes is silly. To ignore those changes and still through the 2.0 version-change around isn't just silly, it's irresponsible to real possibilities that could open up.

  • Eric Dymond | Mon Jun 23rd 2008 11:41 p.m.
    http://www.cim.mcgill.ca/~petra/
    now I know this piece well, and when it bagan in 1997 it employed a bot for the weather (written by a collaborator) , and blog-like updates.
    very Net 2.0 I guess. But who knew?
    • Frederic Madre | Tue Jun 24th 2008 8:02 a.m.
      interesting!
      but, Eric, contrarily to what you state: this shows that "net 2.0" does not actually relate to anything special about now
      • Eric Dymond | Tue Jun 24th 2008 12:11 p.m.
        I agree, Net 2.0 is based upon a tendency that had it's network birth years ago.
        The number 2.0 becomes symbolic of what then?
        I'm not sure I'm following the difference myself. I still see it(what was identified by Tom and others earlier) as an evolution to an existing trend, (sub-genre?), and not really a change in the general practise of Net Art.
  • Eric Dymond | Mon Jun 23rd 2008 11:49 p.m.
    sorry, Petra started this in 1996.
  • Eric Dymond | Tue Jun 24th 2008 1:56 a.m.
    is brad brace's ISBN jpeg project Web/Net 2.0?
    once again, who knew.
    • Frederic Madre | Tue Jun 24th 2008 8:04 a.m.
      once again, who knew."

      show me one person who did not know about the ISBN thing (and actually had an internet connection)

      just show me one!
  • Tom Moody | Tue Jun 24th 2008 10:50 a.m.
    The technological base of (the content of) the network determines the cultural superstructure of (the content of) net art."

    Roughly translated: "We did the best we could with our primitive web and are staying there."
    • Rob Myers | Tue Jun 24th 2008 1:02 p.m.
      Roughly translated: "We did the best we could with our primitive web and are staying there.

      I don't know about "are staying there". Some net artists have kept up with the social whirl of Web 2.0, others are producing increasingly mature work in their chosen media.

      And it's not just "we" who did the best with the net we had. The net contains social and media data now. But it's still data, and it's still on the net. That is my point.

      If the prissy relational nominalism of Surf Clubs is a paradigmatic form of production then I really don't see what the difference to earlier net art with its use of older paradigmatic forms of production is meant to be.
  • Matthew Williamson | Tue Jun 24th 2008 1:27 p.m.
    • t.whid | Tue Jun 24th 2008 1:30 p.m.
      +++

      "We have always/never been Web 2.0?"

      haha, slightly amended...

      We have always/never been 2.0.
  • Frederic Madre | Tue Jun 24th 2008 2:59 p.m.
    as far as I'm concerned whatchamacallit 2.0 is vaporware
    even worse, it's a product we don't need
    supposedly replacing something which never was a product in the first place

    in other words:
    using versioning is commodification of a set of social practices
    the struggle was, and remains, against the commercialization and privatization of the internet
    for me it remains so
    • eryk | Wed Jun 25th 2008 2:26 a.m.
      AMEN FRIEND

      That said, the comodification/homogenization of the Web are on a whole new level now than they were in the 90's: in spite of syndication and RSS and decentralization. Net.art.v2 would have to be includes changes in distribution away from a centralized Web site and into syndication and social transmission. Which is why the most important piece of the 2.0 canon, "No One, Eryk Salvaggio 2008" is intended to be distributed via e-mail forwards and RSS syndication.

      Net.Art 2.0: Don't Believe The Hype
  • Joan Collins 2.0 | Sat Nov 15th 2008 1:11 p.m.
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